Front Splitters and Air Dams: What Are They and Why Do You Need to Protect Them?
If you’ve spent any time around the automotive forums (let alone real-life meetups at car shows and impromptu Saturday races) you’ll know that the jury’s still out on universal front splitters, spoilers and air dams. In other words, some aficionados, street racers and even commuters swear by them, claiming that they increase performance and handling while upping MPG. Detractors claim the opposite: that front lip splitters and lip spoilers actually cause lower MPG because they are designed to increase drag. Still with us? Not sure what we’re talking about? Well, before we go on any further let’s take a quick look at what they are what they claim to do.
Front Splitters: Mods That Look as Good as They Ride
According to the Formula 1 Dictionary front splitters are “essential aerodynamic components that serve to balance the front vs. rear distribution of downforce.” In other words, a splitter is usually located on the front end of a vehicle. They almost look like wings or flat extensions to the bottom of the bumper, kind of like a canard but much closer to the ground.
Splitters can be made from a variety of materials such as ABS plastics, sheet metal, fiber glass or, for those with means, even carbon fiber. The most advanced front splitters are those with cables that are made with springs to pull up when the wing hits something. This prevents damage to the body of the car itself as well as to the front splitter. You may now begin to understand why you’d want to protect your splitter since it is, after all the lowest point on a vehicle, but more on that in a second. First, let’s take a quick look at front lip spoilers.
Air Dams: A Different Solution to the Same Question
An air dam is often a wedge-shaped part of the lower portion of the front bumper that allows the air to pass through. Sometimes referred to as a “front lip” or “lip spoiler” it is often seamlessly attached to the front bumper, although it can also be attached as a separate piece. Unlike the front splitter, the lip spoiler isn’t a flat wing or sheet. Despite this fact, both front air dams and splitters have a similar function; to create lower and higher-pressure zones. Interestingly enough, air dams do so but are less extreme in terms of their effect whereas a front splitter’s effect increases in proportion to its sized and the speeds to which it is subjected.
What’s the Purpose of Front Lip Splitters & Air Dams?
Now that you have an idea of what splitters and dams are you may still be scratching your head and asking why anyone would put them on their car. In theory, both splitters and lip spoilers increase a vehicle’s performance by cutting through or redirecting (like a dam for water) the air in order to reduce lift and increase downforce and, as a result, traction.
When a vehicle achieves higher speeds, the air pressure builds up at the front of the car due to resistance. Just think of pushing a ball through water: the water resists the forward motion of the ball and creates pressure. In the same way, the air forced beneath the vehicle is highly pressurized while the air going over the top is at a low pressure. The end result: the nose of the car lifts and can result in poorer handling due to decreased traction and contact with the road’s surface. A front splitter, air dam or lip spoiler acts like a wedge to force the pressurized air upwards instead underneath the carriage, resulting in downforce which increases traction.
Be Smart. Protect Your Ride
Whether you have a weekend racer with custom splitters and a dam to boot, a commuter car with factory front air dams or you just like the “lowered” look and have decided to go for an aftermarket front lip spoiler one thing is certain: you’ll want it to last as long and look as good as possible. Unfortunately, this can be a tall order when it comes to front splitters and dams because they are usually the lowest point on a vehicle.
We mentioned above that many higher-end, custom-made splitters are designed with spring-loaded cables so that they can retract when the hit the ground. Unfortunately, such a system is costly and simply out of the question for anyone who isn’t a professional race car driver. Luckily, there are two options that anyone can use to both protect and even enhance the look of their ride:
- Paint Protection Film (also known as PPF)
- EZ Lip Universal Spoiler Lips
Using PPF to Protect Splitters and Front Lip Spoilers
Paint Protection Films come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. You can get them in thicknesses from 3 mil (three thousandths of an inch) to 16 mil thick films from reputable companies such as Xpel and 3M. But, since we’re talking about car parts that are going to see a lot of abuse, many people balk at the idea of paying top dollar for PPF that will never see the light of day. Fortunately for all of us, you can now find a number of other less well-known brands online, some of which even offer self-healing protection films for a fraction of the cost of big-name brands.
Your out-of-pocket costs for PPF film will depend on the brand you choose and the amount you buy but installation is relatively straightforward — note we didn’t say “easy” though. Once you’ve cleaned and prepped your splitter or air dam you’ll use heat from a heat gun and squeegee the film on. The thicker the film, the more heat will be needed. Once you’re satisfied with the coverage trim the excess away. Most brands will recommend using a so-called slip-solution as well but since there are so many varieties out there you’ll want to pay close attention to the installation instructions that come with the roll of film you buy.
EZ Lip Spoiler Kits
Of the two options we’ll cover for adding protection to your front splitters and dams, EZ Lip universal spoiler lips are the best-looking and easiest to install option. Their easy peel-and-stick installation and incredible durability puts them a cut above paint protection films while actually adding to the aesthetic of your ride. Best of all, they apply seamlessly and are made from Dura-X Foam™ rubber for ultra tear-resistance and durability. In three, quick steps you can protect your splitters and air dams for good without having to worry about mixing slip-solutions or using heat guns.
Depending on which type of kit you choose (either the EZ Lip base or Pro models) you can expect to pay less than $60 for the EZ Lip universal spoiler kit. This includes both black and colored versions like white or red — options that you just can’t get with PPF. Clearly, if you like convenience and style, there’s just no better way to upgrade, protect and highlight your front splitters and air dams than with EZ Lip’s spoiler lip kit.